Pixinguinha – Som Pixinguinha (1971)

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Pixinguinha
“Som Pixinguinha”

1971 Odeon
2003 Remaster / Odeon 100 Anos
1 Um a zero
(Benedito Lacerda, Pixinguinha)
2 Desprezado
(Pixinguinha)
3 O gato e o canário
(Benedito Lacerda, Pixinguinha)
4 Samba fúnebre
(Vinicius de Moraes, Pixinguinha)
5 Gargalhada
(Pixinguinha)
6 Urubatan
(Benedito Lacerda, Pixinguinha)
7 Pula sapo
(Pixinguinha)
8 Carinhoso
(Pixinguinha, João de Barro)
9 De mal pra pior
(Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, Pixinguinha)
10 Odeon
(Ernesto Nazareth)
11 Samba do urubu
(Pixinguinha)

Finally, for the first time in this blog, a contribution from one of the most important figures in twentieth-century music (particularly in a place called Brazil) – Alfredo da Rocha Viana Jr., better known as Pixinguinha.

While Pixinguinha’s name and many of his compositions may be ubiquitous in the history of Brazilian music, the same can’t be said for recordings that actually feature him. A great deal of his seminal recorded output was on 78 rpm and can be found on a smattering of CD collections, some of them rather rare. He made quite a few LP records in the 1950s, which are also damn hard to come by. This album, made after a period of semi-retirement and only two years before his death, is therefore a nice treat. It’s gorgeous stuff, with some odd production choices. The inclusion of organ and electric bass and bongos to make the album sound more contemporary to 1971 struck me as odd at first but that may be because I am used to hearing “purist” choro as its played these days, which is a throwback to its early 20th-century origins. There is a new composition that Pixinguinha wrote with Vinicius and all I can say about it is… too much Vinicius. “Choro funebre” probably should have died in the outtake bin and had something else take its place on this album, except that it features Paulo Mauro on sax, which earns its keep. And then there is the truly bizarre “Samba de Urubu”, which features fuzzed-out guitar and a funky thumb-piano break. As weird as that might seem for a choro record, I have to hand it to the mixing engineers — they manage to make it work, in part because the overdriven fuzzy guitars sit nestled in the mix alongside everything else rather than taking over the song, and they make judicious use of the idea rather than over-doing it. I’m not sure if there a sub-genre of ‘experimental’ or psychedelic choro but if so this tune must be a “standard” in it. A definite high point is an eight-minute version of “Carinhoso.” Along with ‘Garota de Ipanema’ (Girl From Ipanema), this has to be one of the most recorded songs of any Brazilian composer since Orlando Silva first recorded it in 1937 — so much so that (quite like Garota de Ipanema) I usually cringe when I hear the first few instantly-recognizable notes being played…. So seeing that it was stretched out to EIGHT MINUTES for this record initially made me groan with dread. But the song belongs in the hands of its maker, and the arrangement is fresh, adventurous, and impeccably recorded.

The original and extensive liner notes by Hermínio Bello de Carvalho are thankfully reproduced in their entirety in the booklet, and give a track by track description. Unfortunately for the non-Portuguese speaking (and even for lusophiles), the musician credits are couched within these notes rather than listed separately, making kind of hard to list everyone who played on this record. Please pardon me that I am not taking the hour or so it would probably take me to piece it together and type it out… Mastering is a bit loud or ‘hot’ but not overly compressed and much better than a lot of the other reissues in this series (Odeon 100 Anos).

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